Up Up And Away! ...Scuttle Hatches........Part 3: Insulation as Air Filter

Home Inspector with Aspect Inspection


Up Up And Away! ...Scuttle Hatches........Part 3: Insulation as Air Filter

This is something that I see quite regularly. Most people forget that the modern attic is not a storage area of the home. It is a structural service area and is a cold zone. It is outside the thermal envelope of the home. For all intents and purposes it IS outside the home (It's just rain sheltered.)

So what does this mean to home owners. Unfortunately, from the evidence I've seen, to a great many, it doesn't mean a thing.

Why do I say that?  What evidence an I seeing?

Well, consider what's shown in the photo above. Yes, it's an open attic hatchway with the ladder positioned and prepared for the inspection.

Already, I haven't even entered the attic yet, but I can see evidence of a chronic problem

I can see the hatch which is well made of a solid board with rigid insulation glued on it. This is a good detail because it means that when the hatch cover is in the closed position, the hatch area itself is sure to be insulated.

Now look at the other insulation. The fiberglass. The colour. (Originally it was a bright yellow.) Doesn't it remind you of a furnace  or car air filter? That's because it is working just like one.

That means there is a constant air flow up arround the hatch to the out side. That's air that you've paid for. No you didn't buy the air but you paid to heat it or cool and filter it.

So that represents money leaving, 'Up up and away'.

If that were happening at a window or door you'd soon be fixing that! So just like all the other openings to the outside it must have effective weatherstriping and latches to keep it closed.

Now please consider this:

If a fire or other source of smoke and/or gas originates in this room, most of the time, it is going to go right out the attic hatch. It will not set off the smoke detector untill much later, maybe only when it is too late.




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Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Dan Edward Phillips 06/27/2011 06:31 AM
ActiveRain Community
Quebec Montreal Area Montreal West Island
Canada, eh
Localism - Business in Quebec
Property Inspection Discussion
Home Inspections
Professional Home Inspectors
heat loss
attic hatch
home inspection montreal
scuttle hatches
latching hardware
smoke detector bypass

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Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Good evening Robert, an excellent observation, the insulation color, that I will remember.  And you have a very good point on the hatch in the event of a fire.


Outstanding post.

Jun 25, 2011 05:22 PM #1
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

I think its funny that you can find problems even before you get started. You seem to be very "situationally aware". Not all people have that ability Robert.

Jun 25, 2011 07:53 PM #2
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Robert, and that fiberglass makes a pretty good filter at that.  One can find those black markings of air movement often at that location for sure.

Jun 26, 2011 02:00 AM #3
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Yes Dan, the possibility of the smoke detector to be bypassed or made less functional is very serious.

Hi Tom. As inspectors we se things. Other people look too but we are there to think through what we see.

Yes Charley those markings are a 'tell' for air movement no matter where you find them.

Jun 26, 2011 02:16 AM #4
Not a real person
San Diego, CA

I think out of 11,000+ inspections, I might have found an insulated cover maybe 10 times. It just doesn’t happen down here. I even sometimes find that cover gone completely, making it easier for the homeowners to get in and out of the attic. I suppose so.

Jun 26, 2011 05:34 PM #5
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

Wow, no cover at all. That's like having a window open all the time. Must be expensive.

Jun 27, 2011 01:36 AM #6
Robert Bob Gilbert
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties - Katy, TX
Your Katy TX ( West of Houston) Real Estate Expert

Thanks for the post and safety warning concerning a potential fire. I will have to llok at our attic this evening.. I saw Dan's re-blog.. 

Jun 27, 2011 06:41 AM #7
Robert Butler
Aspect Inspection - Montreal West Island, QC
Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection

It's definately a condition worth proper up keep Robert. The best new ones I've seen are metal with magnetic weatherstrip sealer like fridge doors. When they are closed you know there are no leaks.

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Robert Butler

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